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J Hosp Infect. 2005 Oct;61(2):123-9.

Infection control in neonatal intensive care units.

Author information

  • 1Department of Children's Nursing, City University, 20 Bartholomew Close, London EC1A 7QN, UK. j.chudleigh@city.ac.uk


Healthcare-associated infection is a major problem in acute hospital settings. Hand decontamination is considered to be the most effective means of preventing healthcare-associated infection, but is poorly performed. Few studies have examined technique, which may be important in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) where clinical procedures are intricate and could result in contamination of many areas of the hand, resulting in cross-infection. This study examined technique in six NICUs. Eighty-eight nurses were observed. A scoring system was developed so that technique could be quantified and subjected to statistical testing. The mean score was 6.29 out of 11 when hands were washed and 3.87 out of 7 when alcohol hand rub was used, indicating that performance was not optimal. Scores for technique were not significantly different in each NICU. Senior nurses achieved higher scores for handwashing (P<0.01), as did nurses holding positive feelings about the atmosphere in their NICU (P=0.04). Junior nurses scored less well on a knowledge questionnaire than senior nurses (P<0.01). Nurses who had been employed in the neonatal unit for less than one year also scored less well (P<0.01). Differences in technique were noted when comparing the beginning and end of long shifts. These differences were not noted at the beginning and end of standard shifts.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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